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Let’s Talk Solar

I have some customers who love to boondock. About a year and ago, after a their first winter of bonndocking in the Arizona desert they added solar. I could find lots of info on solar but I was looking for an actual “user”. I asked them about it and with their permission here is their response.

We have one 130 watt panel with an upgraded Blue Sky controller ( solar boost 2000), and use our 2 stock six volt deep cycle house batteries. I have it hooked up to a 1000 watt inverter and ran an extension cord underneath to the front of our coach with a power bar that we can plug our TV , satellite dish receiver and 2 laptops in. With a clear sky can run most of this stuff the majority of the day and, keep batteries up to full charge. In Dec, Jan, Feb, I tilt the panel to the south for better charging in Arizona. They usually reach a full charge by 10.30 am if there is no clouds.
The controller charges the battery to 14.04 volts. and then maintains the charge. After dark the controller shows the battery at 12.70 volts (full charge) and you can use until battiers go down to 12.20 volts ( 50 % charge) as recommended to not damage batteries.
At night we can watch satellite tv on our 20 inch tv about 3 to 4 hours when the batteries get to 12.20 usually bed time anyway. In the morning the batteries recover a bit and can watch tv or compute until sun comes up then we are charging again. One of our lights use more power than the tv or laptop, so I replaced the 2 bulbs over the dinnette with Led bulbs that we found in Quartsite, $20.00 each and they fit our stock fixtures.
This system we had installed at Discount Solar in Quartsite ( we liked that dealer the best, very professional and reasonable) Total cost was $1122.00 installed including taxes.
With the ungraded controller we can add another panel if we choose and 2 more batteries. Another same panel is about $650.00, plus 2 batteries. This would give much more storage and you could install a larger inverter (eg 2000 watt) and run microwave and stuff. The inverter I purchased and installed myself about $250.00.
With the 1,000 watt inverter I can use electric drill, charge cell phone, digital camera batteries, electric glue gun, vacuum cleaner everything we need.
You could install a larger inverter but would drain batteries fast. We also used a 400 watt inverter previously but would only run our tv or 1 laptop.
To conserve battery power we purchased a Mr. Heater portable propane heater and hooked into main tank, This uses much less propane and no electricity and keeps us quite warm on the chilly Arizona nights. We also have stove top coffee perk that we use when dry camping. Makes much better coffe than drip coffee aker.
We can still use the furnace to warm us up in hurry if we need. Of course we can still run the generator if we need. Maybe on a rainy day for a bit or to use microwave.
Another thing too when we put coach in storage for a week in Feb, the solar panel kept the batteries charged and our fridge running on propane. At Picachoe Peak in Arizona we stayed for a month and only used $20.00 for electricity, where our friends payed $98.00. Algonquin Park with no hookups is nice, Walmarts, rest areas or Flying J for the night, work well.
Yes I would definetly install solar panel if you want to do any dry campng at all, it gives you a lot more freedom without the noise of your quiet generator and fuel expense. Our first winter in Arizona the generator ran about 150 hours , lots of fuel, this past year genny has run only about 15 hours.
The system we have works very well, and if we did a lot more dry camping we might add another panel and 2 more batteries. Because our upgraded invertor will allow this.

My thanks to George and Sue Yates.

Just a thought: forget about the noise and the wear on the generator, the difference between 15 hours and 150 hours running the generator is probably about $350 in fuel.

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